The most promising words in science are not ‘eureka!’ but ‘that’s funny…’

13 April 2012 by Karen Vancampenhout, posted in Uncategorized

As so well stated by A. Einstein, science is at its best when you accidentally stumble upon something:

A few years ago, when analysing samples for our paper on determining factors of soil organic matter chemistry in temperate forest topsoil (Soil Biology and Biochemistry 42, 568-579) we accidentally analysed some subsoil samples as well. We soon realised our mistake, cursed our own stupidity, redid that part of the labwork with the obligatory grumpyness and gave the whole thing no further thought.
Until last year however, when procrastinating a bit, I came across these subsoil datafiles again and decided to have a look at them… I soon realised that something really odd was going on in these samples: very labile, plant derived chemical components were abundant in the subsoil organic matter. I had never seen such signatures in literature before, so we decided to “dig into it”…
Turns out this mistake was a lucky one: these accidentally analysed samples gave us the idea for our latest paper: “Organic matter of subsoil horizons under broadleaved forest: highly processed or labile and plant-derived?” (Soil Biology and Biochemistry 50, 40-46)!
So, on this Friday 13th, I wish you all a lot of good bad-luck!

17 Responses to “The most promising words in science are not ‘eureka!’ but ‘that’s funny…’”

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    I actually wandered this way through a Google+ share of your "Scamference" post and found this little gem of a post.

    I'm no one of consequence (to your field, anyway ;) ... But I want to encourage you to write more. If you can pump out clever, interesting posts like this one more often, you could be the one to cultivate broader interest in soil science. (Ugh... Unintentional pun... Sorry.)

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